"No man is free who works for a living . . . but I am available." (-- Illya Kuryakin, "The Bow-Wow Affair")

These reviews/commentaries on the show's 105 episodes originally appeared in slightly different form on the Yahoo! Groups website Channel_D, from 2008 to 2010. If you're new to MfU fandom, these may give you some idea of the flavor of the series, which is still famous and beloved more than 50 (!) years after its premiere in 1964. Enjoy!

News: Decades Channel is running a "Weekend Binge" of MfU episodes on July 2, 2017. Check the schedule here.

(Except where otherwise noted, images are used with permission of the exhaustive site Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library. Thanks to Lisa for all her work!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"The Five Daughters Affair, Part II" (ep. 3/29)

Better than Part I, as it should be, this one starts with the strong cliffhanger that should have ended the previous hour and leaps from the Med to New York, from Japan to "the polar cap," and a fast-moving final act.

The cliffhanger is neatly done; Vaughn, McCallum, and Miss Kim keep their struggle with the ropes from looking easy, and we see Solo's hair ruffled by the wind from the open hatch.  For some reason the closed captioning has Waverly describing the landing field at the Balearic Islands as "Her Majesty's" Landing Field Charlie, when he is clearly saying "Emergency."  A nice touch, that it's dark in New York but daylight over the Med, which is six hours later . . . but Waverly must have come in to work before six a.m.!

We have to wonder why Randolph and his men (a) didn't take Solo along with Illya and Sandy, and (b) didn't kill Solo when they had him unconscious . . . and why Solo doesn't take the convertible.  The cycle sequence is smooth, though, with Solo's hair ruffled again as he races to the ice house where Illya is being held.

The Japan sequence is colorful.  Director Barry Shear really uses his sets, the crowded walkway in Tokyo, the local police station (with Japanese writing on the bulletin boards), and the temple gate with the wide expanse of night sky behind it.  And Kim makes a lovely Japanese.  But why does everyone act as if a geisha house is nothing more than a house of prostitution?  Was that what most viewers would have believed back then?

Yet another fight scene with Randolph's karate squad makes our heroes seem rather hapless.  What happened to their guns?  True, they must have raced after Randolph and Sandy, and had little time -- but surely they could have stopped at a Command office on the way and re-armed?

We have to ask why Randolph would bring them to his headquarters; it makes as little sense as Goldfinger hiring James Bond to work for him.  Nearly all the spy movies and TV shows of the time used that trope, though, didn't they?  And there's the question of which polar cap Randolph means.  The North Pole is a ready hop from Japan, but if you dig down too far into the ice you hit water, whereas the land-based South Pole is a heckuva long trip from Tokyo.

Then we get a fourth act that really shines.  First Illya asks about how the project will affect the value of the world's gold, showing an economic sensibility.  Then the sequence in their cell is a classic in tone and dialogue; for an instant you think you're watching a story from Dean Hargrove or Peter Allan Fields back in Season Two, like "Foxes and Hounds" or "Discotheque."  The glances Solo and Illya exchange as they set up their escape are wonderful.

Finally we have the long chase sequence through the Thrush installation.  While not the harrowing scene Solo's scramble through Vulcan's plant was, so long ago, it features that dazzling strobe-effect moment as they race through that sun-dappled corridor, backed by exciting music.  That, my friends, is the visual style we expect of U.N.C.L.E.

How did they get back home from the polar cap?  Well, we saw a plane landing, and we know both of our heroes have pilot training, so . . .

Even the sappy happy ending, with the three joint weddings, is all right here, as a similar scene was back in "Concrete Overcoat," because the scenes just before have been so strong.

Verdict: A slow beginning to the two-parter as a whole, but it pays off in the last act.  "Karate Killers" must have done well at the box office.

Memorable Lines:
Solo (as he sags back, worn out, after turning off the ice chopper which is about to dismember Illya): "It's all go on this job, isn't it?"
Illya: "Isn't it just."

Illya (to Sandy, in Randolph's cell): "Graceful surrender seems to be the most dignified course left open to us."

Illya (to Solo): "What does the impetuous child [Sandy] expect us to do?"
Solo: "Escape -- with our customary ingenuity, bravado, flair, dash, et cetera, et cetera."
Illya: "Oh. Ah, yes. I'm supposed to say something very elliptically to you like, 'Pawn A to King's mate ploy,' and you understand what I mean, and we go into one of our daring escape routines."
Solo: "Mmm. Wouldn't that be nice. . . ."
(A scene in which they display all those attributes Solo mentions, and in spades)

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